Fostering a love of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at an early age is crucial for students to pick up the skills needed to change the world. Battle Born is proud to help with the STEM program at Sault Area Middle School in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, where the students in this program are paving the way for green technology usage and robotics programs.
About Sault Area Middle School’s STEM Program:
Sault Area Middle School STEM teacher and program leader, John Twichel, is encouraging his students to dive into the wonders of STEM. A former 5th grade teacher, Twichel is now teaching 150 6th and 7th grade students, with a mission that, “In everything we do, we believe that tomorrow’s innovators are today’s STEM students. Our goal is to engage and inspire. We provide real-world, hands-on experiences that focus on teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking.”
As a part of the program, Twichel is teaching about discharge rate, amp hours, and other technical theories that explain how batteries function and power their robots. When asked about how the student’s learning is going, Twichel says, “These students are so eager to learn and gobble up every concept. They’re like sponges and I’m the Super Soaker!” His students have quickly picked up these concepts and are eager to participate in the hands-on projects of robotics building.
Twichel dedicates most of the funds from grants and donations to an intensive robotics program, which includes bots that are built from scratch and maintained by students. The STEM program participants focus on teamwork and communication, and each student is delegated a different role, such as an engineer or project manager. The students then work together to build their robots with everything needed to tackle any challenge a competition would throw at them.
Lithium-Powered STEM Projects
The class’s latest robotics creations are underwater robots powered by two 100 amp hour, 12 volt Battle Born Batteries that run on LiFePO4 technology. According to Twichel, the students noticed a massive difference in performance in comparison to the lead-acid batteries they previously utilized. Twichel emphasized how lead-acid is a slower, outdated technology, and the green energy field is ever evolving. Past practices are quickly becoming obsolete and it’s exciting to have the students at the forefront of the positive change.
Twichel’s STEM students use various components to improve their robotics builds. The robots are powered by a three-motor design and are controlled using electronic speed controllers, which replace analog joysticks. The upgraded features of their robots give students more power and control, which is necessary for the competitions they compete in.
During timed mission competitions, the student’s robots must retrieve, deploy, and release items. There is an in-house, 850-gallon competition tank that allows the students to replicate the work of Robotic Operating Vehicles from industries such as law enforcement, marine biology, and offshore oil drilling.
Over the course of the school year, the students were able to build 33 machines for their robotics competitions and are planning to reuse all of their materials, excluding electrical tape and zip ties. Twichel told us that, “Overall, it’s been a good, productive year, and a lot of different projects and concepts were introduced.”
What’s Up Next for the STEM Program?
As this program has continued to grow, Twichel noted that more female students have expressed interest in the club and are also looking to get even more involved with their programs. His program is breaking barriers and encouraging students of every kind to take part in the field of STEM, and Twichel hopes that more students won’t be afraid of the intensity of the field and embrace the ever-changing technology landscape.
Next year, the program will utilize a 3D printer to teach students about Computer Aided Design (CAD), building, and testing materials for different projects. The addition of the 3D printer will allow the students the creative freedom to design stronger, more powerful robots, specifically suited for the tasks and challenges of their competitions.
“The vision is to grow this STEM program into a MakerSpace culture where students enter and have the resources, they need to build what they dream and where their creativity is their only limit,” Twichel said. “Using the best technology, like that provided to me by Battle Born, in the program is a great way to captivate student interest while also giving back to the community by increasing the number of after school activities for students.” He says that he wouldn’t be surprised if any of his students join the Battle Born research and development team when they graduate from college!